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Analysis

What it Takes to be a Nurse and CEO

By Jennifer Thew RN  
   December 13, 2016

Nurses bring a wealth of clinical understanding to the chief executive role, but they have to master business skills and a wider focus if they want to succeed.

When Leah A. Carpenter, RN, MPA, went into nursing 30 years ago, she did not intend to follow a career path to administration. In fact, early in her career, she was pretty skeptical about the folks in the C-suite.

"I had no desire to be a suit whatsoever," says Carpenter, who is now Administrator and Chief Executive Officer at Memorial Hospital West in Pembroke Pines, FL.

"There was a very big disconnect between the C-suite—and even middle management—and the rank-and-file staff. I really didn't have a great deal of respect for or want anything to do with a leadership at that time."

Then a bit of what she calls "divine intervention" nudged her into the administrative realm. "I lost my hearing progressively over the last past 20 years, so I'm virtually deaf in one ear," she says.

"I had to make a decision whether I wanted to go into management or education, because that's pretty much the two paths that a nurse can take if she's not going to be at the bedside."

Despite that unconventional beginning, Carpenter has risen to the top as a CEO. Now she has some insights and advice for RNs who are considering a CEO role.

Q. What talents, skills, and insights can a nurse bring to the CEO role?

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.


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